Outlook Optimistic for Regional Hiring

I'm an optimist by nature and from an executive search and recruitment perspective, something has changed in recent months that could portend positive and significant growth in coming months. As a retained executive search and recruiting firm, our company often gets a somewhat early view of future economic conditions. For the first several years after the recession, our clients were cautious. Their results were improved and they had returned to profitability; however, there was not much growth and most executives were not especially optimistic about the near-term future. As a result, most of our assignments were for positions that directly affected the top line or helped control costs. Typically these were roles in sales and marketing or accounting and finance. About 18 months ago, we began to see a shift in retained assignments-- more businesses were growing, profitability was increasing and cautiousness was replaced by cautious optimism. Our volume of assignments increased, but the type of assignment did not change. There was still a focus on increasing revenue and controlling costs. In recent months, though, we've seen another, hopefully significant shift. Our clients seem to have moved on from fear of the recession. Their companies are growing again, profitability is strong and, most importantly, leaders are now optimistic about the future. Our volume of assignments has increased again, but this time there has also been a shift within the mix. Our clients tell us they're having trouble meeting customer demand and they're becoming concerned about infrastructure, employee recruitment, retention, and development. As a result, we've seen a significant increase in demand to fill operations, technology and human resources related positions. The next logical step could be an increase in capital and technology expenditures which, in turn, could accelerate the cycle of revenue growth, profitability improvement, and hiring. When that begins to happen, the economy will be finally ready to break out. A quick caveat: The economy continues to grow slowly as we recover from our five-year-old recession, yet there are still some troubling signs that indicate we are not out of the economic woods yet. At six percent, unemployment is still unacceptably high, consumer spending is relatively weak, labor market participation has decreased, and wage growth has stagnated. Watch for signs that these economic factors are improving. For the future, business leaders should keep three things in mind in this workplace environment: 1. Business has changed since the recession. Customers demand continuously faster and better service, new technology is changing and in almost every business, social media has changed a firm's basic approach to sales and marketing. This is a good time to re-evaluate an organization and make sure you have the right people in the right seats. 2. The job market for executive, managerial and key individual contributors is strong. Many key people are likely to be looking or may be approached about a new position. Be proactive with your top talent, but also have a succession plan in place. 3. If you need to hire, you'll likely compete for top talent. Understand what traits in a leader you must have (as opposed to what you would like to have) and move quickly with your best offer when the right candidate is identified. Retention and development have been neglected in many organizations in recent years. It's time to make these areas priorities again. Develop a plan to become an employer of choice so you can reduce turnover and increase the bench strength of your teams.